Gas levels “higher than thought”

According to new measurements, levels of the powerful greenhouse gas nitrogen trifluoride are four times higher than previously thought, Reuters reported. New analytical techniques show that about 5,400 tonnes of the gas are in the atmosphere, with amounts increasing by about 11% per year.

Nitrogen trifluoride is a colourless, odourless, non-flammable gas used in some lasers. Ray Weiss, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, said it had not been possible to accurately measure levels of the gas before.

Nitrogen trifluoride is 17,000 times more effective at warming the atmosphere than an equal mass of carbon dioxide, although it does not yet contribute much to global warming due to low usage levels. Previous estimates had put levels of the gas at less than 1,200 tonnes in 2006.

Weiss said nitrogen trifluoride needs to be regulated as carbon dioxide is. "From a climate perspective, there is a need to add nitrogen trifluoride to the suite of greenhouse gases whose production is inventoried and whose emissions are regulated under the Kyoto Protocol, thus providing meaningful incentives for its wise use," he said.

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